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Foursquare Gospel, International Church of the


This church, an evangelistic, Pentecostal church, was founded (1921) by Aimee (Kennedy) Semple mcpherson at Los Angeles, Calif. In its essential theological orientation, the Foursquare Gospel Association is a pentecostal church, but it developed as the personal following of a single dynamic revival preacher, rather than growing out of any preexisting pentecostal fellowship. Mrs. McPherson was ordained (1921) as pastor of the First Baptist Church in San Jose, Calif., but her movement was only very loosely associated with the Baptist Church and became an independent denomination soon afterward, although she herself always claimed membership in the Baptist Church. With a natural flair for showmanship and public relations, she soon attracted a large following. In 1921 she formed the Echo Park Evangelistic Association, and two years later she dedicated the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, the center of her Foursquare Gospel Church. The Lighthouse of International Foursquare Evangelism (L.I.F.E.) Bible School was established in 1923, and evangelists trained there became the missionaries and pastors of Foursquare Gospel churches throughout the U.S.

As an evangelist, Mrs. McPherson preached Protestant fundamentalism and placed particular stress on baptism by the Spirit that cleanses from inner sin and declares itself by the charismatic signs of faith healing and speaking with tongues. In this respect, she belonged to the pentecostal tradition. Faith healing became an important element in her revival services and in the church she organized. She also drew on the premillenarian tradition to emphasize the imminent Second Coming in her sermons. The new denomination survived a series of scandals involving her disappearance (1926) and charges of misappropriated funds and acrimonious quarrels between Mrs. McPherson and her mother over control of the Angelus Temple (192731). Aimee McPherson continued to dominate the Foursquare Gospel Church until her death in 1944.

The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel confesses the unity and Trinity of God and the Incarnation and Redemption of Christ. It holds the verbal inspiration and sufficiency of the Scriptures, the ability of all humans to repent and accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, and the second blessing of sanctification by the Holy Spirit; and it looks to the Second Coming of Christ. Indeed, the term "foursquare" in its name refers to the four foundational tenets of Pentecostalism: (1) salvation, (2) baptism by the Spirit, (3) divine physical healing, and (4) the Second Coming of Christ. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are accepted as divine ordinances. In its government, a central board oversees the entire denomination, appointing field supervisors to direct local churches, which are, in their turn, governed by a council elected from the congregation. A central ordination and missionary board passes on the qualifications of candidates for the ministry and the foreign missions. Services are primarily evangelistic and make provision for the healing of the sick. A number of foreign missions and various kinds of charitable work are supported.

Bibliography: a. s. mcpherson, Faith Healing Sermons (Los Angeles 1921); The Four Square Gospel (Los Angeles 1949); This is That (Los Angeles 1923); In the Service of the King (New York 1927). w. g. mcloughlin, Modern Revivalism (New York 1959). n. b. mavity, Sister Aimee (Garden City, NY 1931). f. s. mead, s.s. hill and c. d. atwood, Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 11th edition (Nashville 2001)

[r. k. macmaster/eds.]

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